Rhys Hoskins, left, and Bryce Harper are both represented by agent Scott Boras.(Tribune News Service)

Not so fast Philadelphia – Bryce Harper is still in play

Jim Williams
Special to the S.F. Examiner

When Phillies owner John S. Middleton left Las Vegas this weekend after meeting with Bryce Harper’s agent Scott Boras, he thought he had the framework of a deal to land one of baseball’s most coveted free agents in decades. The Phillies seem ready to do a 10-year package at around $323 million (per Jim Bowden of CBS) making Harper one of the highest paid free agent of all time, but before they hold a parade on Broad Street, this soap opera is not yet over.

I have known Boras for 30 years, and this is where he makes things very interesting. Welcome to the Boras “best-and-final-offer” round, where the Dodgers, Giants and Nationals will all have one last chance to land Harper before he packs up to head to the Phillies camp in Clearwater.

The Los Angeles Dodgers brain trust was in Las Vegas on Monday morning, led by chairman Mark Walter, with team president Stan Kasten and Andrew Friedman, the club’s president of baseball operations, on the trip. A formal offer was not made, according to a person involved with the talks and reported by the Los Angeles Times.

Kasten made a case for both a short-term deal as well as a long-term deal in broad strokes. It was Kasten who, as the Washington Nationals president of baseball operations, drafted Harper No. 1 overall in the 2010 MLB Draft, and the two have remained friends through the years.

He knows that Harper has long wanted to be on the West Coast and it is a very short flight from his Las Vegas home to Los Angeles. “Hollywood Harper,” in Dodger blue might appeal to the 26-year-old superstar.

Boras will also make two final calls: one to the Giants and the other to the Nationals. Both will be aimed at making sure his client will get the best long- or short-term deal possible.

Do the Giants, who, like the Dodgers, want Harper on a five-year deal, really want to let him go to L.A., or would they like to have him hitting bombs into McCovey Cove? Boras will get a final answer once and for all.

Boras knows Ted Lerner, the 92-year-old owner of the Washington Nationals, very well and they have done deals together in the past, including signing Jayson Werth, Stephen Strasburg, Harper, Anthony Rendon and Max Scherzer. He, knows that Lerner is a man of great wealth and great pride who, back in September of 2018, offered Harper a 10-year, $300 million deal (per Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post) that was rejected.

Yes, the team has said they are moving on, but Lerner always answers a call from Boras. Count on him asking Lerner if he really wants to let the face of his franchise go to a division foe over a mere $25 million dollars.

This week we will know where Harper will be playing baseball in 2019 and beyond. We know that once again Boras will put the Phillies and the Dodgers on the clock, with the door still open for either the Nationals or the Giants will make one final bid.

It is yet another master class in how Boras plays the game, and why owners are not thrilled to deal with him. In 48 or 72 hours Harper will choose between doing a long term deal with the Phillies or perhaps his old team in Washington that is 10 years or more at over $325 million.

Or, maybe Harper might enjoy a five-year, huge-cash deal that would have him playing on the West Coast with a chance at the age of 31 to cash in all over again.

It will be up to Bryce Harper to make the call, but he will have options thanks to Boras.

Jim Williams is a former sports and media columnist for the Washington Examiner and Bleacher Report, and a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. He currently hosts a podcast, Steam On with Jim Williams, covering the world of streaming entertainment.

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